Last summer, a Pakistani Muslim cleric said that polio vaccinations were un-Islamic — and polio workers have been murdered there also. And in Nigeria, this goes back years: AP reported in 2004 that the rejection of the polio vaccine by a polio-ravaged Nigerian state was due to anti-American sentiment and conspiracy theories. That is true, but it is also true that these fears are being stoked by the local Islamic authorities: “But fears mounted last year after Datti Ahmed, a Kano physician who heads a prominent Muslim group, the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria, said polio vaccines were ‘corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies.’”
“Gunmen kill nine polio health workers in Nigeria,” by Chukwuemeka Madu for Reuters, February 8 (thanks to Bill):
(Reuters) – Gunmen on motorbikes shot dead nine health workers who were administering polio vaccinations in two separate attacks in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Friday, police said.
No one claimed responsibility but Islamist militant group Boko Haram – a sect which has condemned the use of Western medicine – has been blamed for carrying out a spate of assaults on security forces in the city in recent weeks.
The shootings will hit efforts by global health organizations to clear Nigeria of polio – a virus that can cause irreversible paralysis within hours of infection.
“Gunmen opened fire on a health center in the Hotoro district killing seven, while an attack on Zaria Road area of the city claimed two lives,” said police spokesman Magaji Musa.
“They were working for the state government giving out polio vaccinations at the time of the attack,” Musa added.
Boko Haram killed hundreds last year in its effort to impose Islamic law, or sharia, on a country of 160 million split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims.
The group is seen as the most serious threat to the stability of Africa’s top energy producer, and Western governments fear the country could become a base for operations of al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups in the Sahara.
President Goodluck Jonathan has highlighted links between Boko Haram and Saharan Islamists and said that relationship justified his decision to join efforts by French and West African forces to fight militants in Mali last month.
In 2003, northern Nigeria’s Muslim leaders opposed polio vaccinations, saying they could cause infertility and AIDS.
Their campaign against the treatments was blamed for a resurgence of the disease in parts of Nigeria and other African countries previously declared polio-free….